Monday, July 9, 2012

The Quiet Kelly

Recently I read two books about hiking. The first book was about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.The most recent, completed yesterday, was Bill Bryson's, A Walk in the Woods about hiking the Appalachian Trail. These were bookends of a sort, books about wilderness on opposite sides of our country. And in between those two books I read Wilderness Time by Emilie Griffin. Wilderness Time is not a book about hiking, it is about a different kind of Wilderness experience. This from the back cover of the book: "Time in 'the wilderness'-solitary meditation on simplicity, prayer, and other key disciplines of faith- is directly in keeping with Jesus' example of going apart to pray."

Each of the hiking books included that element of going away in order find something, and while each hiker found something to me they missed the big picture. They explored in minute detail every inch of the rugged, sometimes almost impassable trails they hiked without ever meeting the Creator of those trails.

In our every day lives we too often fail to meet the Creator. Wilderness Time is about making a space in your life that allows you to hear God without the competing noise of technology, busyness and day to day responsibilities.

Griffin points us to Jesus as our example for drawing away to be with God. In Mark 1:35-37: In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed." In Mark 6:45-46: Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up onto the mountain to pray."  This occurred after He had fed the 5000.

Again in Luke 5:15-16: "But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray".

Some may wonder why a specific time away is needed or if there must be a specific reason for the retreat. Griffin responds: "In fact, no more reason is needed that that your heart longs for greater closeness with God- because you are worn out by many annoyances and worries, and you are seeking the refreshment of God's presence; because you need rest from the anxieties of ordinary living, even from the legitimate responsibilities imposed by family, work, and church; because you want to follow the example of Jesus in going apart to pray."

I could so easily relate to Griffin's revelation that "certain ingrained attitudes affect us inwardly. Such negative patterns of thought and feeling may defeat us again and again". While the world, or maybe it's better to say THE WORLD often gets me down what most discourages me are the perpetual habits and personality disasters that plague my life despite my best efforts to change them. Griffin says: "We need to invite the power of God to transform us and release us from unhealthy, limiting habits...Going on retreat is really a kind of self-gift, showing the willingness to be healed and transformed. This attitude of desire for the life of God for greater depth of understanding and abundance of heart, is pivotal to the healing of personality."

Griffin discusses several disciplines that help us connect with God on retreat: prayer, fasting, meditation, and study. One thing to note is that fasting does not have be about food. "Fasting from people, from excessive talk and jabber, from an overload of local and world news, from addictive telephone calls: all these are forms of fasting that can heal and restore our souls", writes Griffin.

Though there is discipline involved in retreat there is also serendipity and surrender. "While we ourselves may enter the retreat preoccupied with a given subject, The Lord may use the retreat to  lead us in another direction. We should be open to these promptings, remembering that we are not in charge of the retreat. Everything is in god's hands." Also, there should be no pressure to perform or achieve on the retreat: "Expectations should be neither low nor high, but instead, the work of the retreat should be left in God's hands." As in all of life, God is in control.

One favorite observation by Griffin concerns the definition of solitude: "Solitude is, after all, not a condition of being by youreself but a discipline of attentiveness to God."

I deliberately chose this book to read between the two hiking adventure books. Shortly Dean and I will embark on our own spiritual retreat. Coincidentally, if there is such a thing, I learned on Sunday that my pastor is taking a four week sabbatical that will include a Mount Fuji adventure. I think the extended time away and the experience and challenge of exploring Mt. Fuji will provide the perfect conditions for attentiveness to God. Our modest retreat will include 4 days at a quiet house and daily running on a new-to-us trail. I will take Griffin's book and her advice to keep my expectations neutral and to allow God to speak to us as He will, to say what He will and to lead where He will. Griffin says: "Fed by the sunlight of God's love, the soul works unselfconsciously toward wholeness. Spirit and soul, we flower in the light of God."  I want to flower.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2nd Running Streak Complete

A plant in the backyard, it's about 7 or 8 feet tall.

Happy Fourth of July! Today I completed the Runner's World Challenge to run every day for at least one mile from Memorial Day to July 4th. I actually started a few days early due to the way my training had been going. I ran every day from May 26th to today! It was 40 days of running consecutively (10 more days than my last Running Streak!). 

I had expected this to be a much different experience from my first running streak. My expectations were correct in some ways and off the mark in others.

What was the same: I had expected to run much more mileage but I ended up running about the same. In the last running streak my lowest mileage week was 16.03, this time around the lowest mileage was 20.51. Last streak the highest mileage week was 25.40, this time, 23.30. I thought the better weather (not in the middle of winter) would translate into more miles. It didn't - I'll explain why later. As with the last streak it was hard to get out the door every day, it's always about time. I get so much done in the morning but if I run, shower, then have breakfast much of the morning is gone, those are my most productive hours. With this streak I felt the same sense of accomplishment. I love to run, I do not love to run every day. It took determination, perseverance and the sacrifice of sleep to keep my commitment.  It always feels good to finish what you started, especially if it is challenging. 

What was different:   When it was cold weather I could run any time of day and preferred to run late morning when it had warmed up some. Once the above 100 degree days started during this streak I was forced to be running by 7:00am or to wait until about 7:00pm at night.  I did more of these runs away from our house. I ran at the greenbelt at 380 on the trail, on the trail at Erwin Park, and at the Warren soccer complex. I definitely enjoyed this running streak much more because I could be on the trail and off the asphalt some. 

And here is why I do not think there was much difference in my mileage from last time. I struggled again with my IT band. I had intended to run 2-3 miles on the easy recovery days rather than 1-2 as I had done before and I planned to get my long run up above 8 miles. I had enough pain with the IT band that I felt I should not increase mileage on my easy day. And once I got up to 8 miles on the long run, I backed off because of the pain. Just a note about the injury - I never had pain while running, all the pain and stiffness occurred after running. I was able to keep a significant injury at bay by using the foam roller to roll out the IT band and by stretching.  I have read that "older" runners need more recovery time and while the running streak was fun and challenging I don't think it is the best plan for  my body.

In the midst of this running streak there was a report (my info came from Runner's World) about mileage and runners that stated:

"The runners with the lowest death rate were those who ran less than 20 miles a week in 2 to 5 days of running at a pace of about 8:35/mile".  So perhaps my 20 miles a week was just right, if only I could hit the 8.35 pace they mentioned!

In the next week I will be doing some cross training to allow the IT band to relax. At that point I may go back to a training plan I have used in the past from Runners World - it's an IPhone app that tells you what to run every day. You plug in your info: weekly mileage, long run day, longest run to date, time of your last race, etc. They devise a plan to help you reach your goal (5k, half or full marathon).

There is a motivational running quote that says:

"Every day is a good day when you run."
-Kevin Nelson

I would have to agree with this quote and that is why I am glad to have completed another streaking challenge. There were many "bad" or "not so good" days during the last 40 days. One of the most wonderful Christian men, a friend and mentor to me in ministry and life passed away during these last few weeks. The day I got the news was "not a good day". I have two friends going through cancer treatment, and I have my own personal ups and downs. On each of those bad days or during the "bad times" if I am running I can count on at least 30-90 minutes of a good day. Running is a time away, it's like a mini vacation. I absolutely leave my world behind. I go to another place and often I meet God there. It is a time to think and a time to pray. Sometimes it is just a time to put one foot in front of the other, to feel the sunshine, to enjoy the continuity and peace of moving rhythmically through the world. Whether it is a time to meet with God or just a time to zone out it gives me a break from whatever is on my mind. So I am thankful for the last 40 days of endorphins! Happy running!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Foam Rollering Along

Sunday was my 29th day in a row to run (at least one mile a day, often many more). So far this has been a pretty successful running streak. As with my very first running streak , I have had an issue with my IT band. This time it is the left leg. I think there could be several causes, one is that I may need a full rest day of no running in order for my muscles to completely recover, I could have increased my mileage too quickly, or it could be the road. Running on the roadside means that usually I am searching for the level spot. To be assured that you are running on a level place you would have to run on that spot on the road where the tires also roll. By running as far out of the way as possible I am always running on a slope, my left leg striking on lower ground than my right. I don't even notice it at first but after a long run (by mile 5) I can feel every nuance of the road's surface.

trusty foam roller
I have a little more than a week to go on this running streak and then I will add back in full rest days and do some cross training. So far the trusty foam roller has rolled out all the tightness in the IT band and I have been able to keep running.  But let me just say that the IT band is not the worst part of this summer running streak...the heat is now upon us here in North Texas and the last couple of days have not been comfortable running weather! When I began my run at 7:15 this morning I was very comfortable but by 7:45 it was hot and I was a sweaty,drippy, overheated mess. It will be over 100 degrees here today --AGAIN!  I press on.


Don't ask what happened to the table above! I fought with it for a while and then gave up. It is what it is.  At least the information is there. My Computer Science minion is working on a project and I do not want to disrupt her progress with my inability to create and maintain a table in Microsoft Word. The wonky table above is growing on me. I really have no idea how I ended up with extra cells at the bottom but maybe I can paste a bunny picture in there or something else that's festive or motivating. I have no word processing skills. I am, however, a summer running machine! Fear me! Happy Running!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strayed and Still Lost

While reading Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, written by Cheryl Strayed, I had that wonderful feeling of being in a different place. I enjoyed the "experience" of hiking the PCT! At one point in the book Strayed comments that she met someone who she liked very much but with whom she felt she would not have been friends had they met off the trail due to differences in world view. This was my experience with the author. I enjoyed the book and could relate to the hiking, the fears, and the pain. Even emotionally I felt I connected with the loss of her mother, with the bad father ghost, and with the lack of money, I never connected with her choices, even down to the decision to hike onto the PCT without reading the guide book all the way through, without talking to anyone who had ever hiked it, without figuring out if she could lift her overstocked, bulging backpack she eventually named "Monster". As a runner I would never have set off in a new pair of boots that I had not hiked in for a trek across the mountain ridges that stretch from Mexico to Canada.. She had hiked some in the past --how did she not know this?? The resulting blisters and excruciating pain that she writes about throughout much of the book could have been so easily avoided. Of course, I have to take precautions such as reading the guidebook, learning from others experience, testing my backpack and boots because there is no way I could have continued had my feet been in her condition and I know that I could not have hoisted and propelled Monster from one end of the trail to the other one step at a time no matter how much I wanted to.

There is one passage in the book that outraged me and it had to do with her dead mother's horse. I cannot even begin to describe the idiocy. I was once young and stupid but never in this horrendous way. There are consequences to just flying by the seat of your pants, to taking on responsibilities, luxuries and especially animals that you cannot afford to maintain or care for. I cried and felt betrayed by the author and it wasn't the first time. I wanted her to be a better person.

Strayed's trek along the trail was supposed to be a revelatory journey of self-discovery and for her I believe it was. I did not relate to many of the lessons she learned because I wasn't sure that she ever really saw what was right in front of her. I believe her Creator displayed before her His great beauty, His awesome power, and His gentle mercy and she never saw it.

Isaiah 6:3

New International Version (NIV)
And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.” 


Psalm 19[a]

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 

The kindnesses she experience along the way she attributed to her gender and despite her grubbiness, her attractiveness. Fellow hikers called her Queen of the Trail. Her ability to push through the pain and to tough out all the bad times allowed her to "forgive" herself. It is a pitfall for those who have special abilities whether they relate to physical endurance, intelligence, charisma. If you feel you can be successful on your own, there is a danger you will believe you have no need for God and no need for His forgiveness.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience of the book, while cringing at some of the language and moral disasters.

Interestingly, the author chose her last name - 'Strayed'.

Proverbs 4:26-27 says:

26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

Summer Running Streak- The Road Kill Report

Most of the things I see when I am running make me happy. On one of my regular loops I pass by a mailbox that is in the shape of a small green farm tractor. Another person has had trouble with kids shooting their mailbox so after repeatedly replacing it they finally just painted a red and white bulls-eye on it (still in it's pellet ridden condition), it has not been destroyed since. We often underestimate the power of humor. I also pass many friendly cows who always look up at me hoping I have brought hay. When it rained on one of my long runs recently I turned off my IPod so I could listen to the rain falling on the bright green corn field. It was loud enough that I had noticed the pattering sound above the music. These things make me smile.

However, these are dark times on the road. As the temperatures rises drivers are less friendly and they seem to be in a hurry. And there is much more road kill. On one lonely stretch of road I encountered a small dead frog. He was on his back, his white tummy belly-up. He wasn't flat and so as I ran along for the next few minutes I tried to discern the cause of his demise. My best guess is that he was picked up by a bird of prey, maybe a waterbird of some kind, and dropped onto the road. The little snake I saw the next day was completely flat. I have also recently seen smashed, crunched and flattened bunnies and tortoises. And there have been a few unfortunate birds that have flown too low and not fast enough.

One early,  dreary, overcast morning,  I ran down a long, straight stretch of Coit Road. As I began to approach the area where the subdivisions begin I was overtaken by a large black shadow. It was the shadow of a large bird. As I ran further I saw that the bird joined several other birds on the road ahead. They were turkey vultures. As I approached I could see that they were gathered around a dead rabbit. I think I "knew" this rabbit because I pass a rabbit there very often eating grass on the side of the road. I was sad. A van was approaching the vultures from the other way. As he neared the vultures they reluctantly hopped, walked, or flew into the field on the other side of the road but only about 10-15 feet away from the center of the road. The van went on its way but the vultures were watching me so they did not return to breakfast. Instead they creepily watched me as I ran by. I was also watching them. There were 6 of them and they had a solemn, sinister determination to return to their meal. I also felt as if I was being evaluated, "Can we take her, she's still alive but she's running so slow, she could drop at any moment?". I sensed they all came to some kind of psychic agreement, "we can wait", "we can always reconsider after we finish the rabbit".  I was running a 4 mile loop and unfortunately I saw a few more dead things along the way. On my way home I had to pass the turkey vultures again. As I approached, again they retreated to their farmland spot on the roadside. Again they watched me, heads turning as I ran by. And again I had that creepy feeling. I wanted to shout, "I'm not dead yet!".

picture from Oregon Natural Living web site.

I hated to look over at the remains of the rabbit but not unlike people driving by an accident I could not avert my eyes. Amazingly there was nothing to see. Not even a bone remained. There was just a small stain on the road where the innocent victim had been squashed.  This again gave me something to ponder as I ran onward, glancing back to make sure I wasn't followed! What happened to the bones? Vultures don't eat bones.

Back at my computer this was confirmed - see Turkey Vulture Facts here.  As always with a google search one thing leads to another and I was fascinated by a question posted on the site. Why do turkey vultures urinate on their legs? I know that you are curious about this as well, here is the answer:

The turkey vulture often directs its urine right onto its legs. This process, known as urohydrosis, serves two very important purposes.  On warm days, wetting the legs cools the vulture as the urine evaporates. (The vulture cannot sweat like us). In addition, this urine contains strong acids from the vulture's digestive system, which may kill any bacteria that remain on the bird's legs from stepping in its meal.
There was conflicting information on a different site. That site was Yahoo answers where people delight in contradicting each other. There is a bearded vulture that eats bones and is very good at it however, he does not live in North America.

It's possible some aggressive vulture flew off with the bones but then why were the others still there? Oh and I forgot to mention there were no longer 6 of them, now there were 8 vultures watching me run by.

So even on creepy vulture road kill days, there is something worthwhile to take away: some things to contemplate, a respect for the order of things with regard to life and death, and the sobering reminder that life is fragile, we are not in control. There are usually only a few "states" that I run in: the zoned out, contemplative state where I either pray or just think, the endorphin state where I get ideas and I am very happy, and the state of pain, fatigue, and misery.

Very rarely another state overtakes me, it is a creepy, sad, and wary state. It only occurs when I am alone and away from houses and people and also it mostly occurs when it is gloomy weather. This last state may be a result of living as a woman in the world knowing that I am most vulnerable alone. When I have those feelings or when I encounter dead animals on the road that make me sad I think to myself: "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me". And here again is another reason why I run. Overcoming the creepiness of vultures, the visual reality of death, the fear of being vulnerable in these small ways prepares me to confront these same issues in larger ways when needed.

Here is this week's running streak:


June 3-9
3.34 38:33
1.04 11:47
4.33 47:01
6.06 1:07
2.01 22:23
4.22 46:29
June  10-16
7 miles

Happy Running!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The K List Country Playlist

I like to run while listening to several different kinds of music; rock, pop, country and even some party/rap/hip hop. One of the things I like about Country music is that it often tells a story. Many of those stories will be funny or will teach a lesson.  I enjoy the humor, the common sense and the unpretentious view of life. Country singers often sing about the values I hold dear: family, faith, living a good life. I think the old saying is that the perfect country song would go like this: "I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison"...and then something about getting run over by a train. The following are not really in that genre. They are more of the common sense and sentimental variety rather than the tragic, cheating, hit-by-a-train genre.

One of my favorites contains much wisdom:
Don't Ask Me How I Know by Bobby Pinson

 "Sell your truck while it’s still runnin’, save the Jesus off the dash
Say a prayer when you feel like cussin’, save your money - pay with cash
Forget your pride, buy the roses, if you’re sorry tell her so
Don’t drink the water in Mexico
Don’t ask me how I know"

Next on the list is Waiting on A Woman sung by Brad Paisley, it's just sweet.

I've read somewhere statistics show
The man's always the first to go
And that makes sense 'cause I know she won't be ready
So when it finally comes my time
And I get to the other side
I'll find myself a bench, if they've got any
I hope she takes her time, 'cause I don't mind
Waitin' on a woman

Next up is "I love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life" sung by Darryl Worley. 

We said a prayer for Cousin Michael in Iraq
We're all aware that he may never make it backA
We talked about the way we missed his stupid jokes
And how he loved to be a soldier more than most

I laid in bed that night and thought about the day
And how my life is like a roller coaster ride
The ups and downs and crazy turns along the way
It'll throw you off if you don't hold on tight
You can't really smile until you've shed some tears
I could die today or I might live on for years

I love this crazy, tragic,
Sometimes almost magic,
Awful, beautful life

And just for fun: Shooter Jennings Fourth Of July and Fourth of July and What Was I Thinkin' by Dirks Bentley:

You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me, and your happy to be,
With me on the 4th of July
We sang Stranglehold to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock n roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along

When a mountain of a man
With a "born to kill" tattoo
Tried to cut in I knocked out his front tooth
We ran outside hood-slidin' like Bo Duke
What was I thinkin'
I finally got her home at a half past too late
Her Daddy's in a lawn chair
Sittin' on the driveway
Put it in park as he started my way
What was I thinkin'
Oh what was I thinkin'
Oh what was I thinkin'
Then she gave a come-and-get-me grin
And like a bullet we were gone again
'Cause I was
 Thinkin 'bout a little white tank top
Sittin' right there in the middle by me
I was thinkin' bout a long kiss
Man just gotta get goin'
Where the night might lead
I know what I was feelin'
But what was I thinkin'
What was I thinkin'

 Happy listening!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

SMAShing Sermons: Remember

I really like my new project (Smashing Sermons). Using the Smash Book to record my sermon notes while reflecting on the meaning of the sermon has brought my attention to the word of God in a new and prolonged way that helps me really absorb what I have heard. I am reading a book by Dallas Willard called "Hearing God". I have just begun the book but already I see parallels in what I have begun to do with my Smashing Sermons and with "Hearing God".

To make the above Zentangle I painted black chalkboard paint onto the paper. Next I glued one of my origami crosses to the middle of the painted space.  I then used a white paint pen with a small point to create the Zentngles. This was so much fun. The effect of the white on black was fun to work with, it reminded me in a weird way of those velvet posters that can be colored with markers and also of black light posters from the 70s.

As I've mentioned before the Smash Book comes with some of the pages already printed with images. This is no problem with gluing things in because you can just glue things over the image - however if you are trying to embellish notes or add designs of your own it presents a challenge. This layout had a picture of a subway train station on the left hand page. I glued on a quote from the sermon: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" from George Santayana, an American philosopher. I also glued on a verse from the sermon, Deuteronomy 8:2 "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these 40 years". This was the Memorial Day sermon and the point was to not only remember the heroes of our military past who have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today but to also remember what God has done for us. And not just the gift of His son and His sacrifice but all the specific big and little things of our own history that remind us of the never-ending provision and love of God.

 The title of the sermon was "Tie the String Around Your Finger, A Message from Deuteronomy 8". I printed a graphic from the internet of a finger with a string around it and I tied a cord around a toothpick and glued it to the hand of the drawing figure to reinforce the idea to REMEMBER.

 This layout included an Easter eggs image on the right hand page. Rather than try to compete with the busy pattern I typed a verse from the sermon onto white paper and pasted it in. The verse is  "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see, Hebrews 11:1. I also previously mentioned that the Smash notebooks have accessories that can be purchased separately. I purchased an accessory that allows you to add pages at any point in the notebook. The green striped strip at the center of the layout is an insert-able strip that is really two strips. The insides of the two strips have peel off tape that reveals the two sticky strips. You can insert any page between these strips and then press the strips together to hold the piece of paper in place. I used the strip to attach the sermon notes page from the church bulletin with my notes recorded on it. On the left is the cross and chalkboard paint with white paint pen. Underneath that is the image I cut from the front of the church bulletin. 

My favorite point from this sermon is that Faith Frees from the Bondage of Bitterness! Pastor Gerald mentioned that after he preaches people come up to him and say "you read my mail today" meaning they felt that the pastor or God was speaking directly to them about some specific issue they were having. He told us not to think that about this point. He said that EVERYONE struggles with bitterness.  I found that comforting because when things go wrong rather than be a tower of strength and stoic optimism I fall back on self-pity and bitterness. Not every time but often enough that it makes me sad that I must be so disappointing to God. He has provided the solution right there in His Word and must wonder why I can't get it. The verse Pastor Gerald used to illustrate this point was Genesis 50: 20-21, "You intended to harm me, but  God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.". This verse of course refers to Joseph following his time as a slave. His brothers sold him into slavery and after many years and many turns of events he held a position that allowed him to save a nation from starvation. Their meanness was used by God to help not only Joseph but many other people.

Can't we all benefit from that message? Whatever is going wrong, large or small, the world may mean it for evil but God will use it for our good and perhaps even for the good of many others. There is meaning in all suffering. And going back to the previous week's message we must actively remember the times in our past when God has brought good out of evil and know that He will do it again. Amen.

***podcasts of Preston Ridge Sermons are found here.